This seems to be a psalm that would be sung at the point of repentance when the people recognise that they are separated from God and that when they are separated from Him all sorts of bad things happen – some caused by their enemies, some they attribute to God – and they can’t make things right on their own.
There’s a refrain that is repeated three times which the NIV translates as “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”. Even though I repent I need God to restore me to a right place. And that depends on what Jesus did on the cross. I can’t do that myself.
But the NLT translates the first bit of that refrain as “Turn us again to yourself”. (The Hebrew word “shoo” here means both “return” (as in NIV) or “turn again” (as in NLT).) I found this phrase surprising at first. Surely it’s my responsibility to turn to God. But as I thought about it, I remembered that
- If I’m not in a right place in relation to God it’s not because he’s in the wrong place. Restoring me requires turning me around, moving me to where he is.
- One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to show me my sin (John 16:8) and it’s God who brings me to repentance (Romans 2:4, 2 Timothy 2:25). I can’t even do that on my own. I have to play my part in repenting but its God who brings me to that point.
- “Repentance” is literally changing my thinking. Romans 12:1-2 tells me to make myself a “living sacrifice” and to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind”. I need to actively be transformed (passive verb) – God and I need to make that repentance change of mind together. But that should have been obvious: doing it with Him rather than separately from Him is fundamental to that change from sin to son.
When I’m back in that right place, God’s face shines down upon me. Only then will I be saved. How good is that!
Father, renew my mind. Transform me from going my way to your way; from being separate to being with you; to face you as your face shines on me.
Written by David Cornell